The AMS’s partnership RBC on the RBC Get Seeded program has ended – but the society’s remaining ties with the bank cause concern for students given the latter’s involvement in funding fossil fuels.
The RBC Get Seeded program — which was part of the AMS’s eHub — allowed 15 student groups to pitch their startup ideas for a chance to win $500 for their project. AMS President Eshana Bhangu confirmed that the society’s partnership with the bank had contractually ended in an email to The Ubyssey.
But the student society continues to use RBC for its financial operations, including for the Nest’s construction loan, which worries some since the bank is the fifth largest financier of fossil fuels globally and is funding the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline project.
“The decision not to renew [the contract], we think, does send a message to RBC,” said Michelle Marcus, an alumni and organizer with Climate Justice UBC (CJUBC). “It's really an important step if the AMS wants to stand by its principles around climate justice and stay true to the many election promises that [the executive] candidates have made.”
Marcus also said the decision to not renew the contract aligned with the AMS’s past actions, including its intent to divest from fossil fuels.
However, the CJUBC would like to see the student society cut all ties with the bank – something the AMS has said was not possible in the past.
In early April, two UBC students chained and glued themselves to the RBC branch in the Nest, as part of the Glue Yourself to an RBC movement. Then AMS President Cole Evans wrote in an email to The Ubyssey at the time of the demonstration that the society couldn’t alter its financial relationship with RBC due to “long-term loan agreements and much-needed financial infrastructure.”
Additionally, during an AMS Council meeting at the end of April, Bhangu said the student society couldn’t support the divestment campaign against RBC as it fell “outside of its mandate.”
“The purposes and goals of the Society are outlined in the AMS Constitution, and we are legally required not stray from what is outlined in that document to ensure we are being accountable to our members,” wrote Bhangu in her email.
“The AMS is focussed on high priority climate-related issues that actually impact students at the [UBC Vancouver] Campus ... We must be dedicating our resources towards furthering these priorities for students who pay fees for us to serve them and deliver results on these areas for them,” she added.
But, CJUBC disagrees with Bhangu’s assessment.
“[The AMS] having a very public relationship with a very public funder of fossil fuels ... stands in the way of inherently what the AMS wants to become,” said Yeslie Lizarraga, a co-lead of the lobbying working group with CJUBC.